Shakespeare: “A Vital Part of the Community”
3 mins read

Shakespeare: “A Vital Part of the Community”

To be or not to be; to attend or not to attend. The South Dakota Shakespeare festival is the thespian event that takes place in the Vermillion community over the summer. 

The festival started back in 2011 by Greg Huckabee, Scott Mollman and Chaya Gordon-Bland, who were all professors at USD at the time, to provide professional Shakespeare to the area. 

Rebbeca Bailey is Executive Artistic Director for the festival and took over for Chaya Gordon-Bland in 2022. Bailey’s primary function is to scope out the artistic format of the show and to handle casting. 

“There wasn’t a state Shakespeare festival anywhere here, and in addition to that it was free,” said Bailey. “It was meant for everybody. It was accessible and outdoors, and really set out to become a part of our community.”

This year they will be performing Shakespeare’s The Merchant in Venice. The play is about a merchant who takes out a loan, which he is unable to pay back. The merchant agrees to give the moneylender a pound of his flesh, which he is unable to do. From there many shenanigans ensue. 

“I couldn’t be more excited about this show. I fell in love with the show when I saw it at the American Shakespeare center,” said Bailey. “It has comedy, it has romance, and it has the thing that’s gonna make your heart stop for a second and have you on the edge of your seat.”

“I really am handling all of the performance aspects, but I have a lot of help as far as production,” said Bailey. “We have our board president who also helps with a lot of the business finance, but I do a lot of things with marketing.

For casting this year, there were over 200 video submissions and in-person auditions for 11 to 12 different roles. Auditions come from all over the country, from California to New York. 

On March 2, the board had their annual Wine with Will event, which is the largest fundraiser held each year. This event included wine, hor d’oeuvres, auctions, Shakespeare performances and more. 

“It’s a chance for us to come together and celebrate; celebrate those who are standing behind us as a community, for us to celebrate them and for them to celebrate the work that’s happening here in the community,” said Bailey. 

The event is mainly funded through local grants and donations from businesses and families, which helps to keep the event free for all in the community. 

“There’s so many things in the world that divide us. If we can just sit for two, two and a half hours and remember things we share, remember that we are human, I think that goes a long way in healing or bridging the divides that I see,” said Bailey. “The arts have been the way I learned to process the world, and it’s not everybody’s way, but I do think it does offer something for everybody.”